Just when you thought California’s policies obstructing immigration enforcement could not get worse, the California Senate passed Senate Bill (SB) 54 to make it virtually impossible for law enforcement to cooperate with federal officials. By passing SB 54, the California Senate dangerously prioritizes the interests of criminal aliens, many of whom are deportable and have no legal right to remain in the country, over public safety of the general public. The Senate approved SB 54 with a 27-12, or party line, vote.
As a result of California’s 2013 TRUST Act, current law prohibits state and local law enforcement from complying with detainer requests from ICE in nearly all circumstances. Law enforcement agencies are only permitted to honor a detainer if the criminal in custody has already been convicted of one of a few violent crimes. Otherwise, law enforcement in California must release criminal aliens back into communities after they become eligible for release, despite the fact that they may have been charged with violent, predatory offenses.
SB 54 worsens California’s existing sanctuary law by making almost all forms of cooperation with federal immigration officials unlawful and will allow criminal aliens, even those convicted of the most serious crimes, to escape immigration enforcement. In addition to prohibiting compliance with all detainer requests, SB 54 prohibits law enforcement from notifying federal officials of a criminal’s release date or any other personal information, allowing federal officials access to criminal aliens in custody for the purpose of conducting interviews or any other purpose, or participating in the federal 287(g) program, among other things. The 287(g) program is a federal program authorized by law that allows state and local law enforcement officers to undergo training and become certified to perform certain immigration enforcement related tasks.
The California State Sheriffs Association opposes SB 54 and slammed it at a press conference in March. “If SB 54 passes, it will allow dangerous, violent career criminals to slip through the cracks and be released back into our communities,” Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones told reporters.
Senator Jeff Stone (R-38) was also vocal in his opposition to SB 54. “We’re prohibiting local and state unfettered communications with federal authorities in getting many dangerous and violent felons out of our communities,” Stone said. “How many Kate Steinle’s do we need?” he begged. Kate Steinle’s fatal shooting in July 2015 ignited outrage nationwide after it was revealed that the shooter was a criminal alien who had been released from law enforcement custody pursuant to San Francisco’s sanctuary policy. As a result, lawmakers from at least 25 states have introduced legislation this year to ban such policies.
The California Assembly must approve SB 54 before it can be sent to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for consideration. Given the overwhelming number of pro-illegal immigration Democrats in California’s Assembly, approval is essentially a foregone conclusion.